Friday, April 27, 2007

Revisiting the Topic of Nuclear Terrorism

I recently had the opportunity to read a book of fiction; really, somehow I fit that in. Anyhow, this rare chance to peruse a novel sent me right back to Week 9: Nuclear Theory. As you can see in the posted picture, the book that sent me back six weeks was Wild Fire, by Nelson DeMille. Being that this is a 2006 publication, I am guessing that many may not have had the opportunity to read it yet, if they would even care to.

My intent is not to throw out a book review on our blog, but instead to extract the modern nuclear doctrine put forth by the author. DeMille does point out on the front cover that this is a book of fiction, but that his ideas were conceived from internet conspiracy theories. Of course, most conspiracy theories stink in my opinion, but this one actually perplexed me. Though this book is much longer than necessary, and full of some characters that can turn you off, it contains interesting material relevant for discussion amongst our bloggers (I do realize it is the end of the term, and therefore many won’t read this, let alone care to respond).

In Chris Quillen’s article, “Posse Comitatus and Nuclear Terrorism”, he warns that nuclear terrorism on the American population is not only possible, but also a reality that we should be prepared to handle. I remember the article well, as I focused my class memo for that week on the Posse Comitatus side of this argument. I did this because I immediately ruled out the option of second strike or retaliation for nuclear terrorism. How would we determine where the terrorist cell responsible was located? If we could, how would we prevent the deaths of many innocent civilians in the retaliatory attack? Nelson DeMille and the internet conspiracy theorists certainly do not rule out a counterstrike. (Please don’t forget that I realize this is a book of fiction!)

To break it down, the characters in this book: high level members of our government, military, and corporate structure, play a role in the development of nuclear doctrine frighteningly similar to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). They call this plan “Wild Fire.” Essentially, if there is a nuclear attack on American soil and we are unable to determine its origins, we would immediately assume that it is the doing of Islamic radical terrorists. The response, independent of the size and destruction of the terrorist attack goes down like this. If the President himself does not turn off the retaliation within thirty minutes of the initial attack, the process for launch begins, with missiles in the air no later than one hour after the terrorist attack. There is no congressional vote and no debate on the issue. Only the President himself wields the power to turn it off, and he must have confirmation that someone outside of the Islamic world is responsible. In essence, the counterattack is a knee-jerk reaction without regard whom is the responsible nation. You might ask, what would the target be? Depending on the size and destruction of the attack on one of our cities, we would either hit list A or list B. List A contains around sixty Muslim-populated cities; list B extends this to a total of 120 cities. Certain Islamic cities would survive, for history’s sake, while the Islamic cities that are also tied to Christianity and Judaism would survive, with the idea that those Muslims left in the city would soon be expelled. In other words, the message to leaders of the Islamic world would sound like this, “ (Islamic nation X), if we are struck by a nuclear attack that we believe originated from Islamic terrorists, your centers of population will be wholly destroyed, and your existence as a religion and culture will be wiped off of the face of the earth.”

Wow, really. That is pure evil on our part, at least when viewed from the religious genocide perspective. But, if the basis of this plan was to deter Islamic nations from funding or knowingly allowing Islamic-sponsored terrorist groups to develop and use nuclear weapons, would it differ greatly from the purpose and end-state of MAD. Being that a modern 10-kiloton nuclear weapon could fit in a vehicle trunk, or possibly a suitcase, the threat of nuclear terrorism is real. The end result of a weapon that size could be 200,000 American casualties on the low end, and 450,000 on the high end in a metropolitan area. So, our retaliation would be much more devastating than the first attack, unless the terrorist attack happened in unison across the nation. Even still, if the leaders of Islamic nations were made aware of the plan, which one has to presume they would be for it to be effective; couldn’t it serve as a realistic threat to deter nuclear terrorism?

Your thoughts?

By the way, this novel is set one year after 9/11, when tensions are still soaring. The conspiracy unfolds as “wackos” looking to settle the score select two American cities and initiate the attack themselves, unleashing unspeakable hell on not only their own citizens, but the majority of the Muslim world. It may be worth your time, and then again, it may be rubbish when you consider all of the other good books that might actually benefit you.

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